Here’s some more good news about the relationship between exercise and health as we age. Although distinctions are made in these articles between physical and mental health, we all know about the interrelatedness of mind and body. So if your body feels better, most likely your mind will work better, too, and vice versa. A study published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity showed that “exercise is associated with significantly lower depression severity”. In fact, the article goes so far as to suggest that exercise may be a more effective alternative to antidepressive medications. Especially in older adults for whom antidepressants often don’t work that well. Turns out, too, that it doesn’t matter what kind of exercise and that the beneficial effect was apparent across different age groups.
Another article in the same journal showed a link between improvements in balance and any type of exercise. These results showed up in as little as 4 weeks. So it doesn’t take long to begin to register improvement. It also did not matter what type of exercise was done by study participants. Improvements were seen over all modes of exercise. As you know I have long pointed out that consistent practice of yoga and/or Pilates will improve one’s balance. Of course, I am also a strong advocate of consistency. Practice improves ability and regular practice improves skill. These articles also further reinforce one of my favorite concepts: it’s never too late to start and it’s never too late to improve.
Which is a nice seque to another article from the same journal which examines adherence to yoga practice among women with osteoarthritis. The study participants in this case were women, but I’m sure the results would extrapolate to men also. The article starts with the premise (already established) that “yoga is beneficial for osteoarthritis management”. But, of course, this is true only if one sticks to a regular practice of some type. Another quote: “Higher yoga adherence was correlated with improved symptoms, physical function, sleep quality and quality of life”. Wow! That’s a mouthful. The study also suggested that there are two important factors contributing to the ability to maintain a regular practice. The first is, not surprisingly, the ability to see and feel improvement in any of the symptoms listed above. But there are also social factors involved. Taking classes can be a social event. Experiencing the social connection and feeling the support and camaraderie of a group can be a huge motivator.
So, in case you don’t yet have enough reasons to try a class or just get outside and move on a regular basis, perhaps these results will help convince you to start. Each of these articles reinforces the main benefits of yoga and Pilates which are improvements in strength, flexibility and balance on both mental and physical levels. Getting started is the hardest part. Once you take that leap you’re halfway there. Then if you want to really see improvement, stick with it. You can do it!!